Telemundo co-founder Frank Cruz, pioneer Latino journalist celebrity


Chicano history professor. Television news reporter. Anchor. Network executive. Public broadcasting leader. Co-founder of a single of the nation’s 1st Latino-owned life insurance coverage providers. And co-creator of the second-biggest Spanish-language Television network in the nation — Telemundo.

On a current Friday afternoon inside his Laguna Niguel residence, Frank Cruz, now 80, looked back at his in depth life — from his boyhood in Tucson’s Barrio Hollywood, to his post-Air Force days at East Los Angeles College, to the succession of achievements he facts in his memoir “Straight Out of Barrio Hollywood: The Adventures of Telemundo Co-founder Frank H. Cruz,” co-authored by Rita Joiner Soza.

More than his extended profession, Cruz has infiltrated spaces exactly where couple of Latinos had stepped foot just before — namely, media spaces that ignored the diverse and expanding Latino population in Los Angeles. But this wasn’t his strategy as a boy back in Tucson. As he puts it, Cruz likes to say he got into journalism “totally by accident.”

The year was 1971. Cruz was chair and professor for Cal State Lengthy Beach’s Chicano Research division, when he received a get in touch with out of the blue from KABC-Television news director Bill Fyffe supplying him a job.

“He asked me: ‘Are you interested in news?’ And I stated, ‘Sir, I’m not a journalist. I’m a historian,’” Cruz recalled. But Fyffe, identified for popularizing the Eyewitness News format, was persuasive. He told Cruz he wanted him to do “the pretty very same point you did on that Chicano series.” He was speaking about “Chicano I &amp II,” a groundbreaking, 20-aspect series on Chicano heritage that Cruz and other Latino professors had developed for KNBC-Television. Fyffe had taken a appear at the expanding Latino audience in Southern California and decided he necessary a reporter from the neighborhood to cover the troubles vital to these viewers.

“It was tempting to me for the reason that Watergate was operating rampant and you could do a lot with tv in these days, and I kept saying to myself: ‘120 students a semester at Lengthy Beach State here’s a likelihood to attain thousands,’” Cruz stated. He figured if it didn’t function out, he could go back to teaching.

At 1st, points went properly at KABC. Cruz gave Fyffe what he asked for: stories on Latino troubles. That concentrate, nonetheless, led some viewers to see his reporting as also narrow and some at KABC nicknamed him and a fellow Chicano colleague “Spic and Span.” In 1975, soon after 3 years at the station, Fyffe let Cruz go.

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But he swiftly located a new Television residence. A likelihood encounter at a celebration with the strong sports and entertainment agent Ed Hookstratten led to Cruz accepting representation with the agent and a new contract with KNBC-Television as a reporter.

In these days … Latino Television journalists have been our celebrities.

Felix Gutierrez, journalism professor

“Why me?” Cruz asked Hookstratten soon after the agent stated he wanted to take on the fired reporter. Hookstratten told Cruz that two Latino guys had played important roles in Hookstratten’s accomplishment, and he wanted to spend it forward. Cruz stayed at KNBC-Television for a decade and became an anchor at the station exactly where, he stated, “I started my education in the company of tv production more than the subsequent 10 years.”

“In these days … Latino Television journalists have been our celebrities,” stated Felix Gutierrez, a journalism professor emeritus at USC who 1st met Cruz in 1969 in Lincoln Heights.

Frank Cruz reporting

Frank Cruz covering a labor demonstration in downtown Los Angeles for KABC-Television.

(From Frank Cruz)

“This was just before Eva Longoria or [other] Television stars. We didn’t have our persons in films, on Television shows, on sports and points like this,” Gutierrez added. “So the only ones you saw consistently that had any correct part have been the persons who have been providing the news.”

For the subsequent numerous decades, Cruz lived lots of lives at a time when couple of Latinos have been publicly visible, turning his frustrations about the media’s lack of Latino representation into propane to transform it: “I’ve had a quick fuse for second-class citizenship, for second-class therapy. I by no means liked that at all.”

In the mid-1980s, he applied his regional news knowledge to co-founding KVEA, the city’s second Spanish-language Television station. That venture evolved into the founding of Telemundo in 1987.

“He was pretty energetic. Quite neighborhood minded,” stated Antonia Hernandez, CEO and president of California Neighborhood Foundation. She met Cruz in the mid-1970s when she was a young lawyer and he a young reporter. “He was pretty committed to reporting what was taking place in underserved communities, especially the Latino neighborhood at that time.”

Frank Cruz ad

An advertisement for KNBC-TV’s Emmy Award-winning series with Frank Cruz.

(From Frank Cruz)

In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Cruz to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, becoming the 1st particular person of colour to hold that position.

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“It has often been my drive to penetrate these entities and to be in a position of energy so that you can influence these choices,” Cruz stated. He spent 12 years on the board and became its chairman, a position that enabled him to make a distinction in programming choices.

Frank Cruz and KNBC anchor team

Frank Cruz adjusts his tie amongst KNBC’s weekend news anchor group.

(From Frank Cruz)

A single morning whilst sipping coffee and reading the newspaper, Cruz ran across CBS’ fall lineup. “They picked up all these unique dramas … and they didn’t choose up ‘American Loved ones,’” he recalled of the Television drama that followed the lives of a Latino loved ones in L.A. “The pride in me stated, ‘Call, and perhaps we can get it.’”

Frank Cruz

Frank Cruz co-founded Telemundo, the second-biggest provider of Spanish-language content material in the U.S.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Occasions)

So he referred to as CBS boss Les Moonves and asked if public broadcasting could have it.

“And he stated, ‘Frank, go ahead. Have it. Just give us credit for the 1st show.’”

“American Family” aired in 2002 and was the 1st series to function a majority Latino cast, which includes Edward James Olmos, Constance Marie, Esai Morales, Rachel Ticotin, Sonia Braga, Michael Peña and Kate Del Castillo.

Had a Chicano not been chair of CPB, it would’ve by no means dawned on a different particular person to ask for the show, stated Cruz.

“We’re not going to modify society till we get Latinos in there, into these positions of leadership so that they can dictate that sort of modify,” he added, his impassioned voice increasing slightly.

Frank Cruz

Franc Cruz in his days as an Eyewitness News anchor for KABC-Television.

(From Frank Cruz)

It took Cruz decades to lastly inform his story, and some nudging from buddies and loved ones. The memoir was recognized at the International Latino Book Awards from the nonprofit Latino Literacy Now.
“He has the capacity to appear ahead,” stated Gutierrez, “to see what is not there that should really be there and then getting a way to make it come about or aid other people make it come about.”

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Cruz is conscious of his legacies, in shedding light to Latino communities. But he does not boast. He wears humility on his sleeve. And he thanks his roots for that.

Frank Cruz and family

Telemundo co-founder Frank Cruz with his mother and brother.

(From Frank Cruz)

He credits his accomplishments and difficult-function ethic to “a pretty strong part model” with an unmatched entrepreneurial spirit: his widowed mother, Rutila “Ruth” Osuna Peralta, who at 24 was raising solo two young boys and operating a restaurant, Columbia Cafe. (Cruz’s father died of meningitis just before he was born). He worked there for some years, a job that instilled in him a function ethic that created his self-self-confidence, he stated. The responsibilities nourished the self-esteem and self-assuredness that catapulted him into the highest ranks of his pretty distinct careers.

“I went by way of life and I was accomplishing points and performing points, but to brag about it was by no means a single of my robust suits. I did not want to do that or like to do that,” he stated matter-of-factly.

But telling his story, he realized, served a historic objective. And if it could aid influence and inspire young Latinos and Latinas to pursue their personal dreams and curiosities, then all the extra cause to inform it.

Searching back, there’s only a single point Cruz would’ve accomplished differently. “One point I’ve frequently believed of, for the reason that it had intrigued me, I most likely could’ve gotten a law degree.”

Columbia Cafe, Barrio Hollywood

Barrio Hollywood’s Columbia Cafe, the restaurant Cruz’s mother opened whilst raising two young boys by herself.

(From Frank Cruz )

For now, he’s busy sufficient as a board member for the James Irvine Foundation and as a trustee for his alma mater, USC, exactly where he’s served for just about 20 years. “It has been a difficult period for me,” he stated, referring to the school’s current scandals.

It is not something he cannot manage. His life and history are marked with numerous difficult fights and a lot extra victories. He’s content material for now performing what he does. Enjoying straightforward pleasures like gardening and cooking for his loved ones.

And reflecting on his achievements whilst sharing what he’s discovered: to initiate that invitation, or say “yes” to it.

“You’ll have a meeting with somebody, you will have a luncheon with somebody, you will go to a lecture, you will study a book … if you are inquisitive and you have curiosity, you will say ‘Gee, I’d like to attempt that,’ or ‘Why not?’”

Heck, that is how the seed for Telemundo spawned. More than a cup of coffee.